On this episode of The Torch, we examine how developing your emotional intelligence can change your life.
Here to discuss how EQ can improve your health, quality of life, relationships, even occupational success is Jason Satterfield Ph.D. and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco.
Defining Emotional Intelligence
The Great Courses: Let’s start with EQ. What is it, exactly? Is there a definition for emotional intelligence?
Jason Satterfield: Yes. There are actually a lot of different definitions of emotional intelligence. The first thing we really tackle in the course is: What is Emotional Intelligence? Some definitions are very narrow and some are the kitchen sink approach.
We focus more on one that was developed at Yale University by Peter Salovey and his group. We call it the four branch model – there are four abilities you want to think about.
- First – perceive and express emotions in yourself and in others.
- Second – use emotions to facilitate cognition and memory.
- Third – understand emotion. What do they mean and what are they telling you?
- Fourth – regulate or manage emotions in the self or others.
So: perceive and express emotions, use emotions for thought, understand emotions, and manage emotions.
Learn more: What is Emotional Intelligence
The Great Courses: That sounds highly clinical. I’m going to try to use layman’s terms here – self awareness. Is that a fair phrase? Understanding yourself and perceiving the emotions in others, awareness in yourself and others?
Emotional Intelligence is: What emotion am I feeling? What emotion’s on my face right now? What am I conveying to you?
The Great Courses: Who named it EQ? Is it fairly a new concept or has this been around for a while?
Jason Satterfield: It’s been around for about 25 years or so. The term first came out around 1985 in a graduate student’s dissertation. It was in 1990 that the first papers on EQ, or sometimes called EI, emotional intelligence, started coming out. It really went into the popular press in 1995 when Dan Goleman wrote his book Emotional Intelligence. He is a psychologist who pulled together research from other sources and compiled them in a compelling way that people ran with.
Measuring Emotional Intelligence
The Great Courses: It’s measurable. How do you measure it?
Jason Satterfield: Again, lots of different measures. There are ability based measures, which are sort of like IQ tests. You sit down. You have different puzzles you have to work through. You have vignettes you have to answer. You look at pictures or listen to snips of music and talk about the emotions that you’re perceiving. In that way, it gives you an array of different scores from abilities, just like an IQ test would do.
Most of the other measures are self report measures. They’re quicker. They’re easier. They’re cheaper, but they’re self report measures, so they’re fairly easy to fake. Some of them include personality traits like: Are you extroverted and neurotic? Some are simply abilities.
The Great Courses: As we explore emotional intelligence, should we try to measure and find our baseline, then use some of the teachings in the course to improve? Or is it okay to jump right in with some of the tools that you provide in the course?
Jason Satterfield: I think it’s always okay to jump right in. That’s one strategy for learning. As a clinician and as a faculty member, we always say, “Figure out your baseline first, so you know your strengths and your weaknesses. Develop an individualized learning plan, so you know, which of those lectures are going to be most relevant and helpful for you.”
In the beginning of the course, we go over different ways that people can self-assess their emotional intelligence. So they know: this is where I need to focus and this is where I’m already pretty good.
Learn more: Measuring EQ (ADD LINK WHEN ON PLUS)
Navigating Interpersonal Relationships
The Great Courses: Let’s talk about some of the areas of one’s life that can be improved by this. Let’s talk about personal relationships. How does EQ play into personal relationships with others?
Jason Satterfield: In general, people who have higher levels of emotional intelligence, they’re seen as higher in empathy. They’re seen as higher in charisma or charm. They’re more likely to have a broad network of friends. They have deeper and longer lasting social networks than other folks. This is true both outside of work and also in the workplace. Part of that might be extroversion. It’s just easier for them to meet folks.
It might be low neuroticism, so they just have lower negative emotions, in general. There’s also an ability component. In the course, we talk about a related concept called social intelligence. I think the two overlap. EQ and social intelligence quite a bit. That really focuses more specifically on: How do those emotion management skills affect the way you interact with other people?
The Great Courses: There are people that just innately have those kinds of ease, an ease with that. What about the person that is not so at ease, inherently? Are there tips? Is there a tool kit that you provide in the course to help them?
Jason Satterfield: Sure at the end of each of the lectures, we’re keeping something we call the skills tracker, which gives you a set of homework exercises that you can use relevant to the lecture you just heard, if you think that’s an area you want to work on.
Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
The Great Courses: How about the workplace? You hear this a lot in business that employers are finding that this is a challenge among young people today, now that workplaces have become so team oriented. That is that emotional intelligence that people need to have to work in teams, because that’s much more demanding than back when you just did solo work and delivered your work. Talk about those challenges.
Jason Satterfield: Sure. I think it’s even bigger than millennials moving to working in teams, which is absolutely true. I think, on a more fundamental level, the social contract between employer and employee has changed. The model of finding a job in your twenties and being committed to that employer for the rest of your life, and then you retire with your pensions, that just doesn’t happen that much anymore.
Employees now are much more like free agents. They want to derive meaning from their job. The leader of that organization needs to step up and make the work meaningful, or they’re just going to leave. They’re going to go somewhere else. It takes emotional intelligence from the leader, but it also takes emotional intelligence from the employees to be able to build those relationships with one another. You want to be able to facilitate creativity, but you also want to get the job done and have people navigate all of the inevitable politics that emerges over time.
The Great Courses: Interesting. Do you give tips and homework for that, as well?
Jason Satterfield: We do. We have a series of four lectures in the course that focus exclusively on emotions in the workplace. We look at occupational stress. We look at burnout and the kinds of things you can do about it. We look at how to assess the culture of your workplace, and if it’s not so healthy. What are some top down and bottom up strategies to begin shifting it into a more emotionally intelligent direction.
Stress in the Workplace
The Great Courses: Stress is big in the workplace. It affects our health in a myriad of ways. Are there things that we can do for our own emotional intelligence that actually help us deal with stress?
Jason Satterfield: Absolutely. As a clinical psychologist, I deal with stress all the time in coworkers and myself and patients, sort of across the board. The current state of the American worker isn’t so great. We’re putting in lots of long hours. People are having to get second jobs. We see a middle class that’s definitely shrinking.The current state of the American worker isn't so great. Click To Tweet
There’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure that’s out there. Fortunately, if you think of our four factor model, if you have a high level of emotional intelligence, you’re going to be more perceptive of that stress earlier in the process, so you’ll have a better chance of coping with it.
Learn More: Occupational Stress and Burnout (ADD LINK WHEN ON PLUS)
One of the skills that we teach is something called cognitive reappraisal. We know that when you feel stressed, it’s not just the situation, it’s the way you’re thinking about the situation. It’s whether or not you’re effectively using your resources.
Part of emotional intelligence is being able to slow down that middle process of making appraisals, rethinking the work stressors, and maybe re-marshaling the resources that you haven’t quite effectively used.
The Great Courses: What is emotional regulation?
Satterfield: Emotion regulation is probably some of the strongest research components of emotional intelligence. Remember, there’s four branches. Emotion regulation or management was the fourth branch. It really maps out the process of how you get to feel an emotion:
- You have the situation.
- You have to pay attention to the situation.
- You have thoughts about the situation.
- You have your emotional response.
At each step along that road, there’s a series of emotion regulation strategies that you can try out:
- Change or modify the situation — Add different people in the mix, do it earlier, do it later, do it in private.
- You can deploy your attention somewhere else — change your focus
- There is response modulation — the emotion has happened, but you can do things like, mindfulness meditation, to try to turn down the heat.
Learn more: Managing Your Emotions (ADD LINK WHEN ON PLUS)
Jason Satterfield: We repeatedly come back to what’s called the modal model of emotion, that sort of pathway. We make a stop at each of those locations along the road and talk about: What can you do?
The Great Courses: There are some people that say, “This is soft science.” It’s still science, though. Right?
Jason Satterfield: Absolutely. There’s a science behind it. I do say in the course, I want this to be practical and usable, but at the same time, I want it to be scientifically rigorous. A lot of the literature on EQ out there is a bit on the hyperbolic side.
You hear things like: EQ is the most important factor for success. No. It’s one of them, right? We see 10, 20% of the variants accounted for by emotional intelligence. There’s lots of other things going on. We try to take it back down to reality. We pull in some research, but then we still try to keep it on the practical side.